New Matilda recently reported on a backlash against Federal Government plans to extend income management (here is the Government’s explanation of how it will work at Bankstown in south-western Sydney).

The Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) has added its weight to concerns about compulsory income management schemes.

At its annual conference last month, the PHAA resolved to develop a position statement for endorsement out of session by the Board to oppose population-level compulsory income management schemes.

Since then, the PHAA has been working on a more detailed position statement, as per the media release below, issued today:

PHAA statement

Delegates at the Public Health Association of Australia’s (PHAA) Annual Conference have passed a resolution opposing population level compulsory income management schemes.  “Compulsory income management for Aboriginal people discriminates and disempowers individuals and leaves them with insufficient resources to manage their own lives,” said PHAA Vice President Vanessa Lee.

“Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin recently stated that the Federal Government is considering three models of voluntary and compulsory income management in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands of South Australia. Income management initiatives currently in place in other states are being monitored and evaluation has not been completed – an assessment is due early in the New Year.  PHAA strongly opposes the blanket roll out of a compulsory scheme,” said Ms Lee.

“PHAA believes an intervention to quarantine welfare payments and allow families to buy food should only be implemented on a voluntary basis, as determined through a comprehensive engagement process with affected individuals, and as a last resort,” Ms Lee explained.

Ms Lee is a lecturer in Indigenous health at the University of Sydney and is completing her PhD in Aboriginal community controlled health services.  Originally from the Torres Strait, Ms Lee was recently appointed as the first Vice President (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) of the PHAA.

“Decisions should not be made until the evaluations of current initiatives are complete so we don’t repeat mistakes of the past and create a situation where communities are disempowered,” Ms Lee said.

The different models already in place that the Government is currently evaluating include:

·        Cape York’s family-responsibility type approach;

·        Western Australia’s model using a child protection trigger; or the

·        Northern Territory approach.

According to the PHAA, any form of income management should use a rights-based approach in line with the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples which emphasises the rights of Indigenous peoples to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations.

“This also has implications for the roll out of income management for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in other States and Territories, including New South Wales and other areas of Queensland,” said Ms Lee.

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